PRISON officers guarding some of Britain's most notorious killers are to hold a £15,000 Christmas party - at the taxpayer's expense.

Bosses at Frankland Jail, near Durham City, have defended the party in the face of criticism from some of their own staff.

One worker said: "The prison could use that £15,000 on rehabilitating prisoners or updating equipment. That would be better then wasting it on a night out."

A prison spokeswoman said: "Frankland Prison is officially one of the best prisons in the country, being one of only five in England and Wales to be accorded High Performing Prison status.

"As a High Performing Prison, Frankland attracts additional funding to be spent on staff recognition.

"The prison is having a Christmas function, the costs of which are being met by the prison's budget. The decision to do this was made by governor Phil Copple."

The prison staff will visit the Ramside Hall Hotel, just outside the city.

For £29.50, partygoers get their choice from the extensive menu and a cabaret and disco.

Durham County Councillor John Shuttleworth attacked the decision to fund the party from public money.

The Weardale member said: "I think this is ridiculous.

"If they want to have a party then they should pay for it themselves."